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A Teton Ghost Story

Long ago there was a large band of Dakota-Sioux Indians who had spread to a village in the present Jackson Hole Basin of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

The Teton band flourished, and its people were healthy and strong because they ate plenty of buffalo meat. Usually when they camped for the night, a crier would go among the lodges and call:

"There will be many buffalo tomorrow. Be on the alert!"

One day after the Tetons returned to their camp from a hard buffalo hunt, a young man announced that he wished to marry the most beautiful girl in the tribe, the Chief's daughter.

Her father said, "I will not give you my permission until you bring me many horses." So the young Indian set out in search of many wild horses, hoping to please the Chief and win his beautiful daughter for his bride.

While the young brave was away, his tribe abandoned their regular campsite and moved elsewhere. Later, the young Indian returned to the deserted camp with several captured horses. As it was late in the day he thought he would take shelter nearby in a solitary lodge.

At first, he could not find a doorway into the lodge, because the sides were covered halfway up with sod. Finally, he managed to make an entrance. Inside were four high posts that had been driven into the ground.

The posts supported a kind of burial bed. On the bed lay a woman whose clothes were ornamented with elk's teeth. She turned her head looking down at the young Teton brave. He immediately recognized her as a member of his tribe--but now she was a Woman Ghost! They stayed there for a long time and she became his wife.

One day he said to himself, "I think I will go on a buffalo hunt." Although he did not speak aloud, the Ghost Woman knew his thoughts and said, "You are hungry for buffalo meat? Mount your horse and ride back to the bluffs.

"When you come to the buffalo herd, rush into the centre of them and shoot the fattest one. Bring home the hide and buffalo meat. Roast the meat and bring me a share before you eat yours."

The young Teton Indian brave left and followed Ghost Woman's instructions. When he reached the valley, he came to a large herd of buffalo. He charged his horse at full speed into the middle of them and shot the fattest one. He skinned it and cut up the meat, carrying the robe and meat upon his packhorse. He skewered a large piece of meat and roasted it until it was cooked enough, then he took it to Ghost Woman, who was standing in the centre of the lodge.

Her husband was startled to see her standing there. Rows and rows of beautiful beadwork decorated her leather clothing. Already knowing what the young brave was thinking she said, "Please do not be afraid of me!

From that time on, they talked freely and planned what they would like to do. The young Indian brave said, "Why don't we begin our life together like our parents did when they were first married?"

But the Ghost Woman replied, "No, no, that would never do, because we will need to pitch our tent during the day and travel by night." The young brave wondered about this arrangement.

That is how it happened that they travelled at night. Ghost Woman walked ahead with her head covered, never saying a word to her husband as they travelled. Her legs were invisible. She made no noise as she floated along, ghostlike.

Whenever the young Teton Indian brave thought about anything, Ghost Woman already knew what it was that he had in his mind. Is this why the Teton Indians say, "Beware of Ghosts because Ghosts know all things."

They say Ghosts know when the winds blow and which ones. Ghosts know when there will be snow. Ghosts know when there will be thunder and lightning. Ghosts are glad when the winds blow, because they can float along more swiftly as they travel from place to place.

This is the way Teton Ghost Woman and the young Teton brave lived. Their tribal people never found them again. The Chief's daughter wondered why her young brave never returned to her.

Finally, the young brave also became a Teton Ghost, floating along with the Teton Ghost Woman, every night, forever.

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The Indigenous Peoples' Literature pages were researched and organized by Glenn Welker.